Amnesty International is concluding its 50th anniversary year celebrations with “Toast To Freedom,” a new and exclusive commemorative song, performed by a spectacular selection of iconic artists, including Levon Helm (R.I.P.), Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Saul Hernandez, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Mullins, the Blind Boys of Alabama and more.

Written by veteran guitarist/producers Carl Carlton (Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Keb Mo) and Larry Campbell (Levon Helm Band, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello), “Toast To Freedom” is the brainchild of longtime music industry executive, activist, and entrepreneur Jochen Wilms in collaboration with Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey.

“Toast To Freedom” was inspired by Carlton, a longtime supporter of Amnesty International, who suggested  teaming up with Wilms on a commemorative project to mark the organization’s 50th  anniversary.

“Jo Wilms is not only a great business man, entrepreneur and visionary,” Carlton says, “but a true music lover. It took nothing more than a phone call to convince him to work together with me on this project.

In October 2010, Wilms and Carlton flew to Dublin to meet with Bill Shipsey life long Amnesty International member, human rights activist and founder of Art For Amnesty, Amnesty’s global project that engages with musicians, actors and artists around the world to raise profile and funds for Amnesty International.

Wine flowed freely, as did ideas. Shipsey recounted to his guests the background to the 1961 founding of Amnesty International by British lawyer Peter Benenson. Benenson claimed that he was inspired to found Amnesty having read of two Portuguese students imprisoned for making a toast to freedom in a Lisbon bar. In May 1961 he launched the worldwide “Appeal for Amnesty 1961” campaign by publishing an article in the U.K. Observer newspaper. Reprinted in newspapers across the world, Benenson’s call to action was the spark to ignite the fire of hope and  aspiration of people around the world and marked the beginning of what has become a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members, and activists in more than 150 countries and territories worldwide.

“It’s a legendary story,” Wilms says. “I thought we have to tell the story of Amnesty to the world, as a way of celebrating Amnesty’s birthday. Let’s write a song about it and then take a multi-artist approach.”

“We felt that Amnesty should have their very own song to sing in happy times and in struggling times,” Carlton says. “To celebrate both small and monumental victories, to comfort loss and overcome pain, to sing at their desks and on the fighting fronts and human rights battlefields.”

“Human rights are everybody’s business,” says Secretary-General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty. “I would like to thank all the people who gave their time to make this project happen. I hope Toast To Freedom will become a major source of inspiration in the coming years”

Creating and Recording Toast To Freedom

Wilms suggested that Carlton and Campbell spend a week together writing the song at the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York  – “just like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.” Within five days, the two musicians penned a draft of “Toast To Freedom.” A demo was recorded and presented to Amnesty USA and Shipsey who immediately voiced their approval and support.

“They really fell in love with our song,” Wilms says. “Amnesty said that they’d like us to record it, but that I would have to manage it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what kind of commitment have I made?’ But I’ve been lucky in my life so I said, ‘Fine. I will make it happen.’

The basic tracks were recorded at the legendary Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y, affectionately known as “the Barn,” where acclaimed artists like the Black Crowes and My Morning Jacket have made recordings and where Helm, a four-time Grammy winner, stages his intimate, multi-artist concert performances known as the “Midnight Ramble.”

“The Barn is a magical place of peace and calm that recharges your mojo,” Carlton says. “It’s a fantastic sounding room with an extraordinarily generous host who embraces your talent and soul.”

An array of celebrated internationally known musicians was assembled to record the song’s basic tracks. Helm personally corralled some of his dearest friends, family members, and famous collaborators, including Midnight Ramble veteran Donald Fagen.

“To be a part of this is a chance for myself and all other players to contribute something to Amnesty,” Helm says.

“I have been involved in this organization for a very long time,” Fagen says. “Amnesty International is one of the best organizations you can donate your time or money to.”

Wilms contacted producer/engineer Bob Clearmountain (The Who, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen), hoping to enlist his services for the project. Clearmountain, who also has a home in Woodstock, was excited at the prospect of recording at the Barn. As soon as the sessions began, Clearmountain was impressed by the studio’s sound and by Helm’s crack production team (including, among others, engineer Justin Guip). Most significantly, Clearmountain was moved by the sheer spirit and passion of the sessions.

“The recording of the basic track was absolutely unbelievable.” Clearmountain continued, “It was one of the best experiences in my professional life.”

“The primary session where we created the backing track and really put the song together, that was great,” Campbell agrees. “We had a lot of fun.”

With the initial track completed, Wilms, Carlton and Campbell set out to “mobilize” vocalists. Wilms and Carlton returned to Dublin for a meeting with Shipsey, who suggested also reaching out to artists who hadn’t worked with Amnesty in the past. Wilms and Carlton agreed and mustered a diverse selection of voices from all corners of the globe, from Taj Mahal to Marianne Faithfull and Carly Simon to Kris Kristofferson and actor Ewan McGregor.

“I felt it was important for the song to have its own spirit,” Carlton says. “One way of doing that was to bring in new and unique artists, many of whom occupy completely different creative worlds.”

“It is amazing to me how some artists approached the song from completely different genres,” says Carlton. “Like renowned reggae artist Gentleman or Eric Burdon, a legend in his own right. I know they were struggling at first, because they had to find their way, but that’s what made it so interesting.”

Many of the contributors who lent their voices to “Toast To Freedom” claimed it was a career highlight.  No mean feat considering the talent involved in the project.

“The finest moments of my life have been standing up for the people,” Jane Birkin says. “To do that for Amnesty is a great privilege.

“I think musicians from around the world realize the value of freedom of expression,” explains Kris Kristofferson. “Music is particularly effective in moving the emotions of the heart. After that, the head will follow.”

Once the myriad vocal tracks were recorded, Clearmountain, Campbell and Carlton took on the tricky task of assembling the disparate voices in such a way that their contributions made sense in the overall spirit and context of the song.

“There were a lot of happy little accidents,” Campbell says. “Somebody sings a line in a certain way and you think, ‘This is not going to work.’ But then you hear somebody else sing the next line and all of a sudden you have magic.”

Wilms further notes that one happy by-product of “Toast To Freedom” is that it has built greater awareness not just for Amnesty, but for the various artists involved, not least Levon Helm (R.I.P.) himself.

“For me, Levon is one of the most incredible musicians of all time,” he says. “He has had such an impact on rock ‘n’ roll musical history.” Levon’s Manager Barbara O’Brian always says: “Levon Helm is just another word for Freedom.”

“Nobody swings and grooves like Levon,” adds Carlton. “He is without a doubt a national treasure!”


Toast To Freedom Video and “Making Of” Documentary

All stages of the international production were captured on film by acclaimed filmmaker Natalie Johns of Dig for Fire, known for her works with such artists as Jay-Z, Peter Gabriel, and The Rolling Stones. The project will be featured in a short “making-of” documentary as well as a companion music video.

“I admire her work very much,” says Wilms. “She’s extraordinarily talented.”

Toast To Freedom Availability

Slated for release, Thursday, May 3, 2012, to  coincide with World Press Freedom Day, “Toast To Freedom” will be delivered through an innovative global campaign heralding the song as well as the important Amnesty human rights message behind it. A dedicated “Toast To Freedom” website and Facebook page will be created, with links to the web sites of Amnesty International and all the contributing artists.

Moreover, “Toast To Freedom” will be available in a wide assortment of audio mixes, including “Global Master Mixes” for both the “Extended Version” and “Radio Edit;” as well as later on regional specific remixes South America,Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA.

“My hope from the very start was to have versions of the song, reflecting different languages and different cultures – and ultimately bringing the message of freedom and human rights to a global audience,” said Bill Shipsey of Art for Amnesty.

“It is about getting people involved in the struggle,” says longtime Amnesty supporter Marianne Faithfull, “and maybe becoming part of something bigger than themselves, becoming part of a community of people that believe in freedom, dignity and human rights.”

“Our dream is to mobilize and recruit new Amnesty International members around the world and to demonstrate the power of the individual to make a real change in the world ” Wilms and Carlton . “This was our goal from the very beginning toasting to freedom over a bottle of wine in Bill Shipsey’s garden in Dublin.”

“There’s a fight for freedom going on in the world right now,” Bill Shipsey adds. “There are enormous challenges and the world needs an organization like Amnesty International more than ever before.


Ecco il video di “TOAST TO FREEDOM”, brano tributo per i 50 anni di attività di AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Il brano sarà disponibile in versione digitale dal 3 MAGGIO in occasione della GIORNATA ONU PER LA LIBERTA’ D’INFORMAZIONE


Scritto dal chitarrista/produttore Carl Carlton (Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Keb Mo) e Larry Campbell (Levon Helm Band, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello), “Toast To Freedom” nasce dalla mente dell’attivista, produttore musicale ed imprenditore Jochen Wilms in collaborazione con il fondatore di  Art for Amnesty Bill Shipsey

Alla realizzazione del brano hanno partecipato oltre 50 Artisti Internazionali tra questi Levon Helm (R.I.P.), Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Rosanne Cash, the Blind Boys of Alabama e molti altri.

 “Toast To Freedom” celebra l’Anniversario dei 50 anni di Amnesty International

 Il brano è stata registrato al leggendario Levon Helm Studios a Woodstock, N.Y, noto anche come “The Barn” e prodotto da Bob Clearmountain (The Who, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen).

La regista Natalie Johns di Dig For Fire (nota per le collaborazioni con Jay-Z, Peter Gabriel and The Rolling Stones) ha filmato i vari set di registrazione e realizzato un corto/documentario   “making of Toast To Freedom”  e il video  “Toast To Freedom”



Amy Helm

Angelique Kidjo


Axelle Red

Bertha Blades

Blind Boys of Alabama

Carl Carlton

Carly Simon

Christine & The Queens

Christophe Willem

David D’Or

Donald Fagen

Emmanuel Jal

Eric Burdon

Essie Jain

Ewan McGregor

Florent Pagny


Jane Birkin

Jerry “Wyzard” Seay

Jimmy Barnes

John Leventhal

JP Nataf

Keb Mo

Kris Kristofferson

Larry Campbell

Levon Helm (R.I.P.)

Mahalia Barnes

Marianne Faithfull

Matthew Houck

Max Buskohl

Moses Mo

Nacho Campillo

Pascal Kravetz

Rosanne Cash

Shawn Mullins

Sir Samuel

Sonny Landreth

Sussan Deyhim

Taj Mahal

Teresa Williams

Vida Simon

Warren Haynes

Wayne P. Sheehy

Zackary Alford


Produttore esecutivo : Bill Shipsey e Jochen Wilms

Prodotto da Bob Clearmountain

Co-prodotto e scritto da  Carl Carlton & Larry Campbell


Amnesty International

Amnesty International è un’organizzazione non governativa sovranazionale impegnata nella difesa dei diritti umani.

Lo scopo di Amnesty International è quello di promuovere, in maniera indipendente e imparziale, il rispetto dei diritti umani sanciti nella Dichiarazione universale dei diritti umani e quello di prevenirne specifici abusi.

 Fondata il 28 maggio 1961 dall’avvocato inglese Peter Benenson, l’organizzazione conta oggi oltre tre milioni di sostenitori, che risiedono in più di 150 nazioni.

Ha ricevuto il Premio Nobel per la pace nel 1977 per l’attività di “difesa della dignità umana contro la tortura, la violenza e la degradazione”

L’anno seguente è stata insignita del Premio delle Nazioni Unite per i diritti umani